Each year on 15 May, the Northern Victoria Resource Manager releases a water availability outlook for northern Victoria for the coming year. These seasonal outlooks are updated monthly once the season begins and are available at www.nvrm.net.au.
The 2017–18 outlook at 15 May 2017 is that early-season water availability will be higher than in recent years. Opening high-reliability entitlement allocation is expected to be at least 30 percent in the Goulburn and Loddon systems, 50 percent in the Murray system and 100 percent in the Campaspe
system, with all expected to reach 100 percent by the end of 2017–18 in all but an extreme dry inflow scenario. Under a wet climate scenario, all systems should reach their 100 percent allocations early in the year. Under an extreme dry scenario (for example, assuming inflows are similar to the
lowest one percent of inflows on record), the Goulburn system is expected to reach 45 percent allocation and the Murray system is expected to reach around 70 percent allocation against high-reliability entitlements for the year. Allocation against low-reliability entitlements is also possible in 2017–18.
Environmental water demands in northern Victoria are usually high in winter and spring. As the outlook indicates, there is likely to be good water availability early in the season. High allocations combined with carryover from 2016–17 means that water is likely to be available for early-season demands. Because the storages were relatively full leading into winter, there is an increased chance of storage spills during 2017–18. Storage spills in winter/spring may meet or exceed many of the environmental water flow targets in downstream waterways. This can reduce the amount of environmental water that needs to be delivered, allowing additional watering actions to be undertaken during the year. However, storage spills may also result in some or all unused water carried over from the previous year being deducted from the environmental water account
The VEWH coordinates its activities with other environmental water holders in northern Victoria, NSW and SA to achieve environmental outcomes at the Murray–Darling Basin scale. One example of coordination is the management of River Murray increased flows (RMIF), these flows being part of VEWH's entitlements in the Murray system. RMIF are co-owned by Victoria and NSW and can be used to achieve environmental outcomes in the Murray system in Victoria, NSW and SA. Recommendations for coordinated use of RMIF are made by the Southern Connected Basin Environmental Watering Committee.
The VEWH liaises with the MDBA and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office to optimise the benefits of environmental water delivery in Victorian systems. Delivery of Living Murray and Commonwealth environmental water to meet Victorian environmental water objectives is covered for relevant systems in the following parts of this section.
Environmental water delivered through northern Victorian waterways can sometimes be reused to achieve further environmental benefits downstream (see section 1.4.2 about return flows). If return flows are not reused at Victorian environmental sites, the VEWH, Living Murray and CEWH eturn flows may continue to flow across the border to SA where they will be used to provide environmental benefits in the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth area.
The VEWH may also authorise waterway managers to order Living Murray and Commonwealth water for downstream sites, provided there are no adverse impacts on Victorian waterways.
The Murray–Darling Basin Plan
Northern Victoria is part of the Murray–Darling Basin and environmental water deliveries in the Northern Region are subject to the requirements of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan. The MDBA developed the plan under the Commonwealth Water Act 2007 and it became law in November 2012. The plan sets legal limits on the amount of water that can be taken from the Murray–Darling Basin's surface and groundwater resources. Chapter 8 of the plan also sets out a high-level environmental watering plan which defines environmental objectives to protect, restore and build the resilience of water-dependent ecosystems and their associated functions. The VEWH's environmental planning and delivery is consistent with the requirements of the plan. The potential environmental watering outlined in sections 4 and 5 of this Seasonal Watering Plan fulfil Victoria's obligations to identify annual environmental watering priorities for Victoria's water resource areas under section 8.26 of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.